When veteran Communist Party of India MP Gurudas Dasgupta heard that the Haryana police had brutally assaulted over 1,500 workers of the Honda Motorcycles and Scooters company agitating against an 'illegal lockout', he rushed to Gurgaon to bring things under control.
But when he reached the spot he was humiliated by the officers of the Haryana police who even refused to recognise Dasgupta's parliamentary identity card which is issued to every member of Parliament.
"The workers were merely exercising their democratic right to protest against the illegal closure of Honda and demanding the reinstatement of some of their colleagues," he told Senior Associate Editor Onkar Singh in an interview at his 15, Canning Lane home in New Delhi on Tuesday night while waiting for Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who has been sending messages to meet the CPI firebrand leader.
How would you describe the clash between Honda workers and the police on Monday (July 25)?
It was brutal, barbaric and organised gangsterism of the Haryana police force. It was sheer savagery.
The policemen did not care one bit how they were raining lathi blows on the helpless workers who were merely exercising their democratic right to protest against the illegal closure of Honda, and demanding the reinstatement of some of their colleagues who had been thrown out of their jobs by the management.
What was the scene like when you reached the site?
It was more like a battlefield. The lathi-wielding policemen of the Haryana police were taking pride for vanquishing the workers. They had overwhelmingly captured the bastion.
You had been in touch with the workers and even acting as a mediator. What went wrong suddenly?
There was a dispute between the workers and the management. The Japanese management was trying to throw out some of the workers on frivolous charges because they had formed a union. This led to a dispute between the workers and the management.
The state government failed to make the management see reason. They did not do their job well. They were functioning in a so-called soft and persuasive manner. The Japanese management was overpowering and this led to the difficult situation that we are facing today.
Did you speak to the Haryana chief minister during that time?
I spoke to him twice and wrote him two letters. I had written to Dr Manmohan Singh as well. I must say that both the central and the state governments did not do what they should have done.
In other words they allowed the situation to boil?
I would put it the other way round, they dragged their feet and allowed things to get out of hand.
You feel that Monday's clashes could have been avoided?
Yes, the situation could have been avoided if the state government had played its role in the manner it should have done. The Government of India should have put pressure on foreign corporates to abide by the Indian law. They did not do that. This would lead to outflow of foreign capital in such a difficult situation.
Do you think the other multinational corporations may follow suit?
They have already started doing it. The same thing happened in the Maruti company four years ago. In different MNCs the same thing is happening. MNCs believe they are free to do business to earn profit and they can show a finger to Indian laws.
When you reached the spot the administration was not responsive. Is that correct?
It was too much to expect from those who were on the spot. When I showed my parliamentary card they said they had seen such cards before and many members of Parliament had come and gone. They pounced upon me. I was humiliated. I was manhandled. I had to sit on a dharna for one-and-a-half hours to be able to talk to the workers who were virtually held as prisoners inside.
The Haryana police was oppressive, aggressive and insolent in its behaviour. They acted as the worst form of criminals or gangsters in the country.
Has this incident put the Meham incident to shame?
I do not like to compare the two incidents of similar nature. I have seen police acting in a highhanded manner on various occasions. This was one of the rarest occasions where the police had been so brutal in its attitude. On Tuesday there were clashes between the police and the workers. It is bound to happen because this has come as a counter reaction to what the police has done.
The Haryana police has booked 61 workers in an attempt to murder case. Does it shock you?
It is shocking indeed. 61 workers in a small place have been slapped with attempt to murder charge. It is the perversion of truth and it is the rape of the constitutional rights of workers.
Are you satisfied with the Government of India's response in Parliament on Tuesday?
I am not satisfied with the government response. I feel they could have been more responsive. Home Minister Shivraj Patil merely read out the statement prepared by those who committed the worst form of aggression on Honda workers.
Did you take up the matter with Prime Minister Singh? What did he say?
I have taken up the matter in Parliament and that is enough for me. I shall not knock at every door to get justice for workers.
There are reports that 109 workers are still missing?
This confirms our worst fears that either they have been brutally assaulted and some of them have expired. The police may have sent the rest of them to jail without informing their relatives.
Two days after the incident not even a single Haryana policeman has been suspended?
That is how Haryana democracy functions.